Comey & Shepherd Realtors - serving Greater Cincinnati and Northern KentuckyWe’re pleased to announce the release of the new and improved Comey & Shepherd mobile property search application. Comey & Shepherd serves the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area and is recognized as a leading real estate firm both locally and nationally. We’ve been working with them since 2010 and were excited about the opportunity to work with them on the upgrade of their mobile property search application.

The Motivation
We built their previous mobile property search application using our first generation technology, which we developed and released into the market over 3 years ago. Needless to say, mobile technology has advanced significantly over that time, and the original application was beginning to show its age, both in looks and performance. Together with Comey & Shepherd, we felt it was time to give the application a facelift by improving the look-and-feel, user interface, branding, and performance of the application. We also wanted to put in place an architecture that would allow us to continually improve the application by incorporating new features and making adjustments to existing ones.

The Approach
As with the first generation application, we chose to stick with a web-based approach. A mobile web solution using HTML5 and CSS3 provides a user interface on par with a native application and allows us to address both iPhone and Android devices with one development. Plus, we can provide updates to the application in real-time, use standard analytics and measurement techniques, and leverage the marketing of the website to promote the mobile application.

Our goals for the upgraded design were to enhance the look of the site to match the current Comey & Shepherd branding, to provide a more engaging user experience by incorporating standard mobile UI elements such as loading indicators, animations, carousels and gesture interfaces, to put in place a modern architecture that would provide the ability to add more features to the application over time, and to incorporate deeper analytics so we could better measure the performance of the application to understand which features are working and, just as important, which ones were not.

For the implementation phase, we chose to use the Sencha Touch framework. It provided both the features and performance improvements we were looking to attain, and it is a solid development platform that lays the foundation for adding features to the application.

The New and Improved Look (and performance)

  1. The Home Page
    Below are images of the previous generation application (on the left) and the latest generation (on the right). You can see that more emphasis has been placed on the branding, with the Comey & Shepherd logo prominent across the top of the application and colors updated to better match their website. There is also a footer in the new version that is locked to the bottom of the screen to provide navigation through the application as well as a contact button that makes it easy for clients to reach Comey & Shepherd. We also moved the location search to the top of the page to make it easier to find (and use), as the old version had the location search below the fold.
    Comey & Shepherd home page comparison
  2. Larger Thumbnails and property identification
    The thumbnails for property search results have been enlarged so users can get a better view of the properties, and we’ve made it easier, for compliance purposes, to tell which properties are listed through Comey & Shepherd and which are provided through Broker Reciprocity. We also included the icon indicators from the Comey & Shepherd website that shows properties that are under contract (red ball), have an open house scheduled (blue ball), or have just come on the market (green ball).
    Comey & Shepherd listings page
  3. Navigation Improvements
    The pagination of the listings pages have been improved to allow for back and forth movement through listings results, and navigation between details pages has been added. Previously, users were not able to move back and forth between details pages without going back to the listings pages. There’s dedicated home and back buttons in the footer that keep track of the user’s navigation through the application, providing a native app-like experience (see screenshot above and below).
  4. The Details
    A photo carousel has been added to the details page so users can swipe through photos without leaving the page (as before), and the property details has been moved to a panel to keep the main details interface cleaner and easier to read. A second contact button was also added to the details inset so users can quickly get additional information on a property. If the property is listed by a Comey & Shepherd agent, they are connected directly to the agent, otherwise they are connected to  a Comey & Shepherd office for more information.
    Comey & Shepherd Details page
  5. Under the Hood
    Significant performance improvements have been made in the application by utilizing many of the local storage options available through HTML5. For example, property search results are stored locally to limit interactions with the server and to speed up moving from page to page. Likewise, once loaded, details pages are also stored locally for quicker movement between properties. Overall, the application is using the HTML5 Application Cache so the application files and static images are stored on the client’s phone, which makes for a much faster and more consistent loading time when users return to the site.

Analyzing the Results
The application has been live for just over two weeks, and we’ve already gathered quite a bit of data. In a short amount of time, some interesting trends are already developing:

  • Street searches trump Location searches
    Believe it or not, but only 25% of the searches performed are by location. In fact, the leading search is for properties by street name, which comprises almost 40% of the searches performed. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this statistic going forward, as I was completely caught off guard by this and figured the location/advanced search distribution would be flipped.
  • Navigating details pages is more important than navigating listings pages
    Another curious finding is that users tend to primarily navigate forward on listings pages and rarely move backward. The forward button to back button ratio on listings results pages is ~50-to-1. Details pages, on the other hand, have a much more even distribution of browsing back and forth.
  • Most Contact events happen from the Home Page
    Most users are utilizing the Contact Us button from the home page. My guess is that people are looking for quick information after loading the app (like an office or agent phone number) and go straight to the contact button to connect to Comey & Shepherd.
  • The Details Contact button gets good usage
    Adding a Contact button to the Details inset area was a late addition to the app, but it has turned out to be a good one. It doesn’t get as much usage as the Contact Us on the home page, but it isn’t far behind either.
  • People are interested in More Details
    Here’s another statistic that surprised me. I thought most people were not that interested in the detailed description of a property, since it’s mostly marketing speak. However, over 10% of the details pages viewed are checking out the property description, which is 4-5 times higher that I would have expected.
  • Details pages are important
    On average, users are viewing 4-5 property details pages per search completed. What does this mean? It means that the property details pages are important and that people are looking at them.

What’s Next
There is a lengthy list of features that we are planning to add to the application that includes mapping, property sharing, additional contact options (such as email and text), and more office and agent information. Before we start implementing however,  we’re going to let the site age a bit so we can gather more analytics. We will be looking for usage trends to identify any areas of improvement and to see what can be done to increase conversions through the application. The bottom line, mobile is still evolving and moving fast, so the application will be a work in progress.

The application is best viewed using an iPhone and Android powered mobile phone. Simply open your phone’s browser and go to http://www.comey.com to start your property search!